The Tampa Bay Rays have a logjam in the outfield, both now and in the future. Right now, Wil Myers, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, and David DeJesus have all seen significant time in the outfield. Then, there is promising rookie Brandon Guyer who has not gotten near the playing time that his minor league performance shows he deserves. On top of all that, Kevin Kiermaier, who is temporarily on the Rays roster until Jennings comes off the bereavement list, has torn up Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .322/.372/.483 line all the while playing plus-plus defense in center field. So how do the Rays accommodate so many outfielders? The answer is by trading Matt Joyce.
Joyce, who the Rays acquired way back in 2008 in exchange for Edwin Jackson, has tantalized with his hitting abilities. Every season, he makes major league pitching look like nothing more than batting practice… until the second half of the season comes on. Even with his constant second half struggles, Joyce still has been a productive hitter over the life of his career, posing a .251/.342/.453 line. But, he doesn’t have the upside and years of team control that Jennings, Myers, Kiermaier, and even Guyer have, in a large part due to his underwhelming defense. Joyce also is a better trade candidate than DeJesus because he figures to bring back more in return thanks to his power, something highly valued on the trade market. He also is more youthful than DeJesus, but in actuality, DeJesus and Joyce bring around the same value to their clubs (DeJesus slightly edged Joyce in fWAR last season). it seems Joyce is a very logical trade candidate to help clear the Rays outfield picture a little bit.
Trading Joyce isn’t a new idea, but it has never come to fruition. The only real rumor we have ever heard about trading Joyce is when the Rays tried to flip him to the New York Mets for Ike Davis, but that didn’t pan out. Joyce isn’t going to bring a James Sheilds-esque return, but he should net a good prospect or a solid major leaguer in return. His ability to provide value at a corner outfield spot, designated hitter, or off the bench means he would have a good market. Given his team control through 2015, the team that acquired him would not be getting just a rental player, which helps his value tremendously. The Rays should not have a problem trading Joyce if they feel it is necessary, though we do know that Andrew Friedman usually does not make trades unless the return heavily favors the Rays.
So when would the Rays trade Joyce? The best way to maximize his value is by trading him at this year’s trade deadline. Especially with the second wild card spot turning usual non-contenders into fringe-contenders, there will be plenty of teams looking to buy a power bat on the trade market. Teams get desperate by the trade deadline, and will often overpay for players. This will be even more so with Joyce thanks to his additional year of control. If the Rays waited until next offseason, then there might be a market for Joyce, but there might not. But in the month or so leading up to the trade deadline, teams are going to be desperate for bats, and that is why it is the ideal time to trade Joyce. They would also get the added plus of not having to deal with his second half downfall. It would be a risk relying on someone like Guyer or Kiermaier to take on a more important role this season, especially if the Rays are contending, but they are both capable of doing so.
Trading Matt Joyce this season is the right call for the Tampa Bay Rays, as it is the best time to maximize his value and also open up playing time for Brandon Guyer and/or Kevin Kiermaier. Joyce has been a good player in his career, but he struggles in the second half, so if you trade him at the trade deadline this year the Rays might get the first half benefits without dealing with the second half fall of grace. The Rays usually do a good job of trading players at the ideal time, and this could be that time for Joyce.